England fail to capitalise on bowling improvement

New Zealand 161 England 98 <i>New Zealand win by 63 runs</i>

Optimism dominates every assessment of the state of English women's cricket – those generated within the circle of the national team at any rate – yet the real measure of progress remains a commodity largely out of reach.

Optimism dominates every assessment of the state of English women's cricket – those generated within the circle of the national team at any rate – yet the real measure of progress remains a commodity largely out of reach.

Defeat at the hands of New Zealand in the final of the Tri-Series one-day international tournament at Chester-le-Street on Saturday left England's women with the undistinguished record of having won only once in a dozen limited-overs matches since December 2000.

England, whose sole group victory over India on a tricky wicket in Jersey enabled them to qualify for the final of a rain-disrupted tournament, lost by 63 runs to the current world champions. They had been applauded for restricting the Kiwis to 161 but never threatening even to go close in reply.

"We bowled pretty well so it was disappointing that we couldn't match that with the bat," said England captain, Clare Connor. The failures with the bat of Connor herself and Charlotte Edwards, two of the players from whom decent scores looked vital, did not help, and while Berkshire's Claire Taylor made a respectable 32, no one else was able to provide worthwhile support.

Too many English players seemed to believe they should play only for boundaries, looking for power in every hit when greater subtlety might have served them more profitably. The body language at the crease was in noticeable contrast to England's demeanour in the field, which perhaps reveals a psychological element as well as a technical one. Under their coach, John Harmer (an Australian, inevitably), the squad has become "more positive and aggressive" according to England and Wales Cricket Board's director of women's cricket, Gill McConway. Unfortunately that has yet to translate to their batting.

However, this should not distract from the promise shown by such young players as Laura Spragg, a 20-year-old left-arm medium-pace bowler from Yorkshire, and Isa Guha, the 17-year-old Berkshire girl who has been England's find of the tournament, and who offers evidence that the development of the women's game is moving in the right direction.

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